When You’re Stuck, Fail


I keep starting to write something and then losing steam. I spent yesterday doing the same thing. What happened to the momentum? I’m grateful for my 100-posts-before-the-year’s-end commitment. Without it, I’d probably let this slide. I’d say something like “well it’s not resonating right now so it must not be relevant.” But that doesn’t feel totally true. This project resonates so much it’s almost overwhelming. The little hiccups of doubt and confusion aren’t loud enough this time to redirect me. I committed. And I was serious when I committed. I knew this would be catalytic. I knew there would phases where I wouldn’t feel like writing or wouldn’t know what to say. My commitment was to push through it. If that means writing something pathetic and redundant, sweet. I didn’t commit to becoming a bestselling author who travels internationally by the end of the year, I committing to publishing 100 pieces of writing.

I rarely commit to stuff. It feels unnecessarily stifling. When something really matters to me or excites me, I don’t need a commitment to remind myself to honor it. And by not committing to some relationships and jobs, I’ve had breakthroughs that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I think culturally we overcommit. We commit to things we’re honestly not that interested in because we’re scared of not having that thing. Despite that, I think I went a little overboard in the anti-commitment, anti-discipline direction (I can hear Jason and Suzanne and Dan and Marc laughing now).

I chose to commit this time because of how much this project matters to me. Having this daily creative outlet feels good. And not just like pleasant. I’m talking big picture good. Like food for my soul good. I want to integrate this into my life long term. I want to develop the habit. I want to automate this. I want to be producing content no matter what, independent of my daily fluctuations. In harmony with my daily fluctuations.  

“Continuous Effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.” — Winston Churchill

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she wrote about writing every single day. Not writing well, just writing:

“When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

When I first read her book, I disagreed. I thought her superimposed structure of ritualized writing was interrupting the natural flow of her life. What if one day, she wanted to spend her day at the park reading and drawing, and writing felt distracting?

Now I see firsthand that there’s a hierarchy of excitement. There’s stuff that feels good then there’s stuff that feels fucking vital. Elle Luna (brilliant, follow her on insta) makes the distinction between Should and Must:

“Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us.” — Elle Luna

It reminds me of that motivational dieting / exercise quote: “nothing tastes as good as fit feels.” It’s annoying and overused but there’s something so true about it. When you’re intrinsically motivated about something; when you’re goal oriented to the core, the distractions don’t feel so distracting. Structure becomes a useful tool that frees up mental bandwidth instead of an interruption to your natural flow.

And still… I’ve had this paralysis the last couple days. I’m committed to this. And I feel stuck. I feel some pressure. Now that people are following my blog, commenting and sharing and writing to me privately to thank me or to tell me that something resonated… I can feel the heat. Now it’s bigger than “Just Fucking Start.” Now there’s an upward trajectory I’ve got my eyes on. Now I could mess up.

I need to remind myself that this is about me writing. Not about you reading. And paradoxically, that’s how to keep my blog as interesting and useful for others anyway. In their book Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson talk about “Scratching your own itch.” In other words, make something that fills you with enthusiasm. Then you’ll draw in the people who organically vibe with you anyway. I like that. 

One of my best friends and probably the top 1 most competent people in the most areas of life, Jason Hardy, works with educational systems. I remember him giving me an example a few months ago, about how if you tell kids to “get up there and give a presentation,” they’ll be nervous as hell and they’ll usually do pretty poorly. But when you tell them to “give a bad presentation,” they get up there with enthusiasm and crush it. 

I started today’s post with the intention to “write a bad essay.” I was stuck and going in circles so I decided to fail in order to at least move forward. And now that it’s written, it doesn’t feel like a failure at all.

I took this photo in desperation to get this thing posted. Can someone teach me how to take a decent still photo good lord

9 thoughts on “When You’re Stuck, Fail

  1. a) This dude spurred a total mental breakdown for me (seriously) when I read the play “Waiting for Godot” sophomore year of college. But he got this right: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

    b) I think you realized in your 3rd paragraph from the end that there’s actually no way for you to mess this up. Cool.

    c) Your still photo skills are on point. Don’t self-deprecate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeah I know that from painting pictures: Sometimes when I have have nothing, including ideas, expecations, I make awesome stuff than if I have everything (also regarding brushes, paint, tools etc).
    The picture that got the most attention in my recent exhibition and was bought first, was a little 15×20 canvas which I just did while visiting my grandma at her desktop. XD So I’ll bring here what I wanted to bring here anyway, dont need to filter it.
    The expectation fucks it. When Im doing a painting with an exact idea that I want to bring on the canvas, it’s got no power. When I trust an have fun in the process even while the picture looks shitty, in the ends it will be gorgeous and a whole little spiritual journey is brought on canvas. So “just fucking start” isn’t the worst approach. Thank you Cory

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cory Katuna

      EXACTLY. In this post I quoted Elle Luna from her book “The Crossroads of Should and Must” — Here’s another snippet that resonates with what you just said:

      “Must is why Van Gogh painted his entire life without ever receiving public recognition. Must is why Mozart performed Don Giovani and Coltrane played his new sound, even as the critics called it ugly. Must is why that lawyer in his thirties spent three years writing his first novel only to be rejected by three dozen publishers. He honored his calling, eventually received a “yes,” and that is why John Grisham is a household name today. Must isn’t exclusively for writers and painters and composers, though. Must is why, in the early days, Airbnb sold boxes of cereal to make ends meet because no one would give them money and every conceivable metric said they should quit.”


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  5. Teresa M

    Omg, just fucking start is the only way to do it though. With anything that grows you and stretches you. You just issued that #100somethings challenge and I’m sitting here thinking about all sorts of stuff….. In fact I’m thinking about taking it on twice over…. Because I can’t get the idea of writing or of my head. So just fucking start vs thinking about it…. That’s the way to go.

    And, here I am still thinking about what I’m earth I’ll write about.


  6. ilonadiewold

    Cory, I love you!! I just found your blog, sitting here on the other side of the planet in Germany, never having met you before, and I must say that I freaking love you because girl you rock!!
    I simply live how you are so authentic and human to a part and still a goddess on the other side.. and I love how you use language, it’s so beautiful and entertaining.
    Sending you lots of thanks and high vibes!!!

    Xx Ilona


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